New tips for five old pubs in Melbourne and beyond

Melbourne pubs have always been able to reshape themselves to suit the society around them: swill and 6 hour rissoles slowly turned into “another sangiovese with your spatchcock?” And just in time for winter 2021, a slab of venerable hotels has redesigned menus, offerings and outlook.

If the walls of the Sarah sands could speak, can they please not mention the nights when things got tricky watching bands there in the early 90s? Best to get excited for today, when the pub has been upgraded by Australian Venue Co with a menu from chef Telina Menzies: think pub classics with more veg and an emphasis on ingredients local. It opens on May 31.

Sarah Sands Hotel, 29 Sydney Road, Brunswick, 03 8563 0052,

Steak tartare, cured salmon and caviar, and oyster mignonette at the Graham hotel. Photo: provided

Boozer Bayside Graham was bought and refurbished by Australian-born Turkish footballer Ersan Gulum and his wife Emel. A dining atrium offers a view of the open kitchen and fireplaces invite you to cozy winter meals. Chef Sam Hiroki (ex-Fog and Steer) offers a trendy gastropub menu. Dishes include school prawns with sumac, a chicken terrine with foie gras butter and a lamb shoulder pie.

The Graham Hotel, 97 Graham Street, Port Melbourne, 03 9676 2566,

Serial restaurateurs Paul Adamo, Vince Sofo and Jake Sofo have renamed the Old Colonial Inn to Fitzroy Hotel and updated the multi-site offer inside. The ground floor Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya is still the mainstay and there’s a rooftop bar with city views, but the new Cappo Sociale restaurant is sandwiched, with moody stalls and Italian food. classic from veteran chef Maurizio Esposito.

Fitzroy Hotel, 127 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 03 9417 4127,

The Espy Kitchen in St Kilda.

The Espy Kitchen is now a stand-alone restaurant with a separate menu. Photo: Ryan McCurdy

AT The Esplanade in St Kilda, chef Ash Hicks increased the appeal of the Espy Kitchen, in the internal main dining room, as a stand-alone destination with wintery dishes such as pine mushroom stew with stracciatella and nori, shoulder slow roasted lamb with grilled beans and salsa verde and potato gratin with hollandaise cream with sour cream and chives. The main bar still focuses on pub classics, pizza and burgers, while Mya Tiger upstairs feeds on lively Cantonese fare.

11 L’Esplanade, St Kilda, 03 9534 0211,

“Did you ever think you should be able to go shopping and have a cocktail at the same time?” This is the question asked and delightfully answered in the affirmative by Botanik, the Kyneton cocktail bar and factory and bar store that Frank Moylan and Melissa Macfarlane have opened in their Royal George Hotel. Drinking during the day is encouraged, but they are also open on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Botanik at the Royal George Hotel, 22 Piper Street, Kyneton, 03 5417 2345,

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Linda Jennings

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